[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, CONN., MISS., NEB., N.C.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Jan 28 10:54:23 CST 2012
Long-time Texas death row inmate loses appeal----Man on Texas death row since
1986 loses federal court appeal that challenged all-white jury
A longtime Texas death row inmate from Houston has lost a federal court appeal
that argued his trial lawyers were deficient for not challenging the selection
of an all-white jury to consider his capital murder case.
Appeals lawyers for 53-year-old Willie Washington contended years later they
found Harris County prosecutors had made race notations on juror questionnaires
that indicate the jury selected for his 1986 trial was improper. Washington is
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday joined lower courts that
rejected the arguments, saying the challenge could have been raised during jury
selection or much earlier in the appeals process following Washington's
Washington was condemned for fatally shooting a Houston grocery store employee
during a December 1985 robbery. He doesn't have an execution date.
(source: Associated Press)
Komisarjevsky denies blame as death sentence passed
A man convicted of murdering a woman and her 2 daughters in a 2007 home
invasion has tried to deflect blame, as a judge sentenced him to die.
Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, was ordered to face lethal injection after emotional
statements from family members of the victims.
The crime shocked America and helped defeat a bill to abolish the death penalty
in the state of Connecticut.
Komisarjevsky's accomplice, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death in 2010.
The 2 were on parole for burglary when they broke into a home in Cheshire,
While Dr William Petit was tied up, his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit was forced to
withdraw money from her bank.
She was then raped by Hayes and strangled to death.
Hawke-Petit's 11-year-old daughter, Michaela, was sexually assaulted by
Both girls were tied to their beds and left to die as the house was doused in
petrol and set on fire.
The only survivor, Dr Petit, was beaten with a baseball bat and tied up but
He testified during Friday's sentencing hearing that the crime had been a
"I lost my family and my home,'' he said. "They were three special people. Your
children are your jewels.''
Defence lawyers had argued that Komisarjevsky, convicted of sexual assault and
murder in October, should be spared execution in light of the abuse he suffered
as a boy.
But Judge Jon Blue disagreed and told the convicted man he had brought the
harshest sentence on himself.
In court on Friday, Komisarjevsky acknowledged he had hurt many people, but
insisted that he never raped the girl and had not intended to kill.
"They were never supposed to lose their lives," said Komisarjevsky, who will
become the 11th man on Connecticut's death row.
"I know my responsibilities, but what I cannot do is carry the responsibilities
of the actions of another,'' Komisarjevsky said. "I did not want those innocent
women to die.''
During the trial, Komisarjevsky and Hayes blamed each other for escalating the
Being condemned to death was a "surreal experience", Komisarjevsky added.
Talking about the penalty, he said: "I wonder when the killing will end."
They are not likely to be put to death soon, as both cases will be
automatically appealed, a process that could last decades.
(source: BBC News)
(source: WTNH News)
Death penalty sought in slayings----Trial set April 9 for pair accused of
The death penalty will be sought against two men accused of killing a
Terry-area couple in their home last year and leaving the couple's
then-7-month-old baby alone in the house without food and water.
In January 2011, Robert Carter, 26, and Renita Mark, his 24-year-old fiancee,
were found dead in their home on Timberidge Road, two days after Hinds County
sheriff's deputies say they were shot to death.
Dwaliues Deon Carter, 30, the male victim's brother, and Travaris Christian,
21, are charged with capital murder.
Christian, who is already serving a 25-year sentence for a probation violation
on a house burglary conviction, was back in court Friday.
"We're seeking the death penalty," Assistant District Attorney Brad Hutto said
Hutto didn't give a reason for the decision, but the district attorney's office
had said the nature of the crime might warrant seeking the death penalty.
It's the 1st time the district attorney's office has stated publicly it would
seek the death penalty in the case.
Assistant Public Defender Alison Kelly asked Circuit Judge Winston Kidd to
approve money for his defense to hire a capital mitigation investigation
specialist, who can do research on Christian's life to try to find reasons why
he shouldn't be sentenced to death if convicted of capital murder.
The trial date for Carter and Christian is set for April 9.
Carter's attorney, Mike Scott, couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
Scott has asked for help from the state Office of Capital Defense Counsel to
assist in Carter's defense.
Christian was brought from the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility for
Kidd signed an order to keep Christian at the Hinds County Detention Center
until the outcome of his case so he can confer with his attorneys.
Christian was sentenced on the probation violation by Hinds County Circuit
Judge Bill Gowan on Feb. 11. He has prior convictions for burglary and
receiving stolen property and had been sentenced to three year's probation in
April 2009, according to prison records.
The suspects are also charged with conspiracy, house burglary and child abuse.
Dwaliues Carter also is charged with being a felon in possession of a weapon,
and Christian also is charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
According to court documents, Dwaliues Carter went with Christian to his
brother's home intending to burglarize it.
Court records say a flat-screen television, a camera, and an air compressor
were loaded into Robert Carter's pickup.
The truck was found in a vacant lot in Jackson.
The television also was recovered in Jackson at a house on Reddix Street, where
the 2 men were arrested.
The air compressor was located at a pawn shop, according to authorities.
After a a Jackson police officer found Robert Carter's abandoned pickup, Hinds
County deputies were notified. When they went to Robert Carter's house, they
found the bodies and the child in the house.
Christian's uncle, Alonzo Christian, 46, is charged in the case, but isn't
expected to face a death sentence.
Death penalty likely to live on
A most unlikely death penalty opponent sat in a balcony above the Legislature's
main chamber Friday, doing needlepoint as Nebraska lawmakers debated capital
Miriam Kelle' brother, James Thimm, was murdered nearly 27 years ago by cult
leader Michael Ryan, one of the 11 men now on death row.
But the 54-year-old nurse from Beatrice wants her brother's killer to live. She
wants lawmakers to trade the death penalty for life in prison without parole,
which is what a bill debated Friday would do.
"I'm probably not going to win," Kelle said.
She is right.
Omaha Sen. Brenda Council, the bill's sponsor, voluntarily postponed debate
with the intention of bringing up the measure again later in the session. If
the bill does return, it's highly unlikely to advance, because most of
Nebraska's 49 senators support the death penalty.
So the reason Kelle took a vacation day from work Friday was to meet with death
penalty supporters, explain her position and maybe change some views.
During the debate, Council announced that Kelle was outside the chamber,
willing to talk to any senator.
None came out to see her, Kelle said.
What she would have told them, she said, was how the endless death penalty
appeals prompt news coverage, which in turn describes her brother's torture and
death. Hearing and seeing that over and over is traumatic, Kelle said, like
ripping away an emotional scab.
Some of those painful details were described Friday on the legislative floor by
senators who argued that Thimm's killing represents why the state has a death
But Kelle argued people would have forgotten Michael Ryan by now if it weren't
for his death sentence.
And she could remember her brother, not a victim.
She knows many who've lost loved ones to murder don't share her view. They
blame the same appeals, the legal delays, the death penalty opponents.
"But I don't think any victim's family wants an innocent person executed," she
Kelle also said she opposes state-sanctioned executions because of her
Mennonite faith. What happened to her brother tested her opposition, but it
strengthened her belief in God.
"You have to forgive, so they don't win."
Kelle said she sought out a couple of the pro-death penalty senators Friday and
shared her thoughts.
She doubts she changed their views.
Then she climbed up the stairs to the balcony, sat down and pushed needle
(source: North Platte Telegraph)
Capitol: Death penalty bill put on hold
Debate on abolishing the death penalty in Nebraska has been put on hold, at
least for now. But senators signaled the argument may resume later this year.
It was the 2nd day of debate this year on a proposal to abolish the death
penalty and replace it with life in prison. And before it ended, senators
provided a foretaste of what may be a key issue going forward: how the state
obtained one of the drugs needed to carry out lethal injections.
Sen. Brenda Council has worked to halt the death penalty in Nebraska since she
took office in 2009. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature) Unable to purchase
the drug in the United States, Nebraska officials got it from overseas. But the
head of the company that manufactured it says it was obtained under false
pretenses. State officials maintain they purchased it legitimately from a
middleman. But Omaha Sen. Brenda Council cited what she said was noted on an
“The box checked? ‘Legitimate medical need,’” Council said. “An execution is a
legitimate medical need? And we’re going to be complicit in this conduct?”
But Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, a death penalty supporter, suggested the
importation issue was a distraction being used by opponents.
“Now we’re talking about supposedly shameful conduct on the part of the
Attorney General’s office in trying to obtain the drugs medically necessary –
it’s a sedative – medically necessary to carry out the death penalty,”
Lautenbaugh said. “What I see as kind of shameful is that we’re having
litigation surrounding that process, with motions being filed in the wrong
court by attorneys who know better – should know better. This is beyond zealous
After a few hours of debate, Council filed a motion to indefinitely postpone
her own bill – a parliamentary maneuver that enables her to take it off the
agenda without killing it.
In a later interview, she said she wants to leave time to see how the drug
issue works out, while preserving the opportunity for senators to reconsider
the bill later on this session.
(source: KVNO News)
Unicam Debates Death Penalty
Tense moments on the Unicameral floor. The issue, death by legal injection.
Passionate debate which almost brought some state senators to tears.
"And I'll tell you something, there were no mistakes made for what happened in
that bank back in 2002," Norfolk senator Mike Flood said.
That's when 3 men walked into a Norfolk Bank, opened fire and killed 5 people.
They sit on death row.
"These are vicious obnoxious folks who that have committed the heinous of
crimes and deserve the death penalty," Flood said.
But Sen. Brenda Council looks to rid of death by lethal injection in Nebraska.
"The death penalty is not justice. It's state sanctioned revenge," she said,
"This is not an infallible system, there have been too many instances of
innocent people being executed."
"Life in prison does not make it right, when someone has imposed more than one
murder or has committed heinous crimes," Scottsbluff Senator John Harms
Add in appeals, the average time before a death sentence is carried out, 16
"We don't hear about the effects has on all of those families," Lincoln Senator
Colby Coash said.
Critics of the bill say lethal injection can be a deterrent from murder.
"Retribution is part of the criminal process in America. What I'm talking about
is a system that embraces justice, that embraces evidence, that embraces a
process where citizens can channel their disgust," Flood said.
For families of victims...
"They've still lost their loved one. If we really want the death penalty to be
a deterrent we should put it there for everyone who commits murder," Lincoln
Senator Amanda McGill said.
Another key issue that could pop up in the debate is the solution used during
executions. Nebraska was blasted by a Swiss pharmaceutical company, claiming
state officials illegally bought their product.
In the meantime, 11 inmates are on death row in the state.
(source: WOWT News)
'He is mentally ill': Family of taunting death row inmate apologize and dispute
his boasts about a 'life of leisure'Danny Hembree, 50, on death row for murder
of a 17-year-old girl
The family of a death row inmate who sent a letter to a local North Carolina
newspaper boasting about his 'life of leisure' behind bars says the convicted
murderer is mentally ill and fabricating his living conditions and they offered
another letter as proof.
Danny Hembree, Jr.'s sister released a letter sent to her from her brother
earlier this month that contradicts the recently published two-page boast of
leisurely conditions behind bars, disturbing the family of his 17-year-old
'I try to put on a (nonchalant) attitude for you guys but it is overwhelming
and depressing to look at these walls and electric doors and bright lights 24-7
and digest the fact that I'm never going to leave here until they murder me or
I just die either way I'm never leaving here alive,' he wrote in the letter
dated January 8 and published by the Charlotte Observer.
'I'm bored to death,' he wrote her. 'No pun intended.'
He signed it, 'Love, Danny Boy.'
'I'm so very sorry for any hurt or anger that was caused by my brother Danny
Hembree's letter to The Gaston Gazette. He is a very depressed man and in his
hopelessness, he lashed out,' his sister Kathy Hembree Ledbetter said in a
statement released along with the letter to the Observer.
When Hembree's boastful letter was reported by the Gazette this week, District
Attorney Locke Bell told ABC that the father of murdered Heather Catterton
called him in tears saying, 'He murdered our daughter, got the death penalty
and now he's just sitting in jail laughing at us!'
Hoping to prove otherwise, his sister published the second letter '...in order
to try to reveal the truth about his mental and emotional state which was
brought out at his trial.'
'No person in their right mind thinks that living in death row is a life of
leisure,' his son Danny Hembree III told ABCNews.com in response to the earlier
week's letter. 'There's no good explanation for why he wrote that except he's
In agreement, his sister also attested to Hembree having a 'severe mental
illness for over 35 years of his 50 years of life. He is not happy, he is not
comfortable and he is not well.'
These latest revelations are a sharp contrast from the letter where he
describes life as '...a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV in the a/c,
reading, taking naps at will, eating 3 well-balanced meals a day.'
His son agreed himself that letters sent to their family directly, as their
only means of communication between them, express his pain and discomfort
'He talks about the 4 walls closing in, that the lights are always on and he
can't sleep. Death row is a horrible place for anybody to be,' his son said.
'He's very severely depressed. He has told us that he's depressed. He feels
like it's over for him.'
Taunting his victim's family this week, Hembree wrote: 'Is the public aware
that the chances of my lawful murder taking place in the next 20 years if ever
are very slim?'
Hembree, 50, was found guilty of killing the 17-year-old girl in 2009, a crime
both his sister and son do not believe he committed.
During a police interrogation he admitted to killing 2 other women, though he
now says that he was lying to distract authorities and cover up other crimes.
'In every one of those confessions on all of those tapes, he was coming off a
three-day crack binge. He hadn't slept, he was drunk and highly intoxicated. He
could barely hold his head up,' Hembree III said.
'He's not a killer,' his sister told the Observer. 'He did not kill those
'I am a man who is ready to except [sic] his unjust punishment and face God
Almighty with a clear conscience unlike you cowards and your cowardly system.
'Kill me if you can, suckers. Ha! Ha! Ha!' he wrote this week to the Gazette.
Hembree was sentenced to death on November 18 for the murder of Ms Catterton
and has been waiting in Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina.
In spite of Hembree's declarations of grandeur, the conditions of Central
Prison have been under a microscope in recent months since the prison warden
resigned after the despicable treatment of prisoners with mental illnesses.
Alvin Keller stepped down in November- coincidentally the day after Hembree was
sentenced- following the results of an investigation that showed mentally ill
inmates being left unattended for weeks at a time and found in cells covered
with human feces.
The conditions in Hembree's cell seem much more luxurious, however, and he
boasted about his free government health care in the letter.
The gloating letter is not the only one that Hembree sent from prison which is
due to be controversial.
He also mailed an inflammatory letter to the NAACP attempting to goad them into
fighting for one of his alleged victims, saying that the state’s justice system
was playing racial favorites.
In addition to Ms Catterton, Hembree is thought to have killed to other women-
Randi Dean Saldana, 30, whose burnt remains were found in South Carolina in
2009 and Deborah Ratchford, 30, whose body found in 1992. Ms Saldana and Ms
Catterton, who were friends and both had a history of drug arrests at the time
of their death, were white and Ms Ratchford was black.
Hembree wrote to the African-American civil rights group arguing that Mr Bell
is trying the cases of the 2 white women first for racially-motivated reasons.
‘I implore your great organization to pressure Mr. Bell until he gives Debora
Ratchford her day in court in the interest of justice,’ Hembree’s letter said.
Both of his letters display a flagrant disregard for the victims families and
his lack of remorse.
'I laugh at you self righteous clowns and I spit in the face of your so called
justice system. The state of North Carolina has sentenced me to death but it's
not real,' he wrote in the letter to the Gaston Gazette.
(source: The Daily Mail)
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